Our lead story in yesterday’s Life Style Magazine was on a subject-matter that is fast catching on in our part of the world: intra-African tourism. Titled ‘A traveller’s dream to make intra-Africa travel easy,’ the article explored the tourism industry in general – doing so with considerable cooperation from a 20-year veteran of the travel and tourism business, one Ms Leina Lemomo.
In a world where tourism was experiencing exponential growth – at least before the viral Covid-19 pandemic started to wreak havoc on national economies and humanity across the world last year – Leina had embarked upon a mission to inspire “Africans to travel within their own continent…”
For all practical purposes, this amounts to ‘intra-African tourism,’ a phraseology used here to define tourism activities between various African countries, including especially Africans touring African countries, as contrasted with Africans touring countries outside their continent.
Generally speaking, tourism is about people travelling to other destinations on vacation, or with a view to opening up possibilities of cultural exchanges, as well as the identification of new business opportunities.
But, for some reason or an/other, many of Africa’s relatively scanty tourists find it easier – and, perhaps, more attractive – to travel for pleasure/on vacation to countries in Europe and/or Asia.
As a consequence of such very limited intra-African travel from one country or region of the continent to another, very few Africans get to know how Africans in those other parts of the continent live and fare.
This is to say nothing of the socioeconomic developmental opportunities that may lie in wait of functional exploitation for mutual gains all round.
In a sense, effectively promoting intra-African tourism could, therefore, catalyse the generation of more opportunities within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) scheme that is currently in the offing.
Many experts are agreed that Tourism acts a catalyst for wider and more rapid economic growth and socioeconomic integration. And, increased growth and collaboration between Africa’s tourism destinations could be one way of creating employment and other income generating opportunities across the continent.
But then again – also as our Leina Lemomo stressed to The Citizen – travel costs, unmitigated bureaucracies, poor travel infrastructure and related facilities, as well as numerous other impediments are major hurdles to intra-African travel and tourism.
In the event, she proposes creating an environment that is seen and felt to be more friendly to intra-African tourism for Africans. These include – but are by no means limited to – conducive/favourable visa conditions and fees (if any); affordable travel and hospitality costs; sure-fire travel connectivity; politically stable, secure and safe regimes in countries that are to be travelled to and/or through…
It is comforting to know that Leina and her team at Intra-Africa Tourism Alliance are already “working with several African countries on having special standard (travel and hospitality) rates for African travellers…”
We suggest that the government and other relevant institutions liaise with ‘the Leina Lemomos’ of the world to make intra-African travel and tourism ‘the done thing’ sooner than later.